South Africa’s drought declared a state of disaster

13th March 2018 By: Natasha Odendaal - Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

South Africa’s persistent drought has now been declared a national state of disaster under the provisions of the Disaster Management Act, an elevation from the initial disaster reclassification issued in February.

The declaration will mobilise technical and financial resources by all spheres of government, private sector, nongovernmental organisations and communities to activate several extraordinary intervention measures to deal with the impact of the drought.

The declaration will also enable access to the provisional allocation of R6-billion that had been set aside in the National Budget for the 2018/19 financial year for several purposes, including drought relief and to augment public infrastructure investment.

The declaration, gazetted on Tuesday, is valid for a period of three months.

“The drought in South Africa is, in some provinces, showing no signs of abatement,” said Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Zweli Mkhize on Tuesday.

Speaking at an Inter-Ministerial Task Team (IMTT) on Drought and Water Scarcity briefing, he said that, while the severity of the drought is evident in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape, there remain pockets of drought and water scarcity conditions across other South African provinces.

“The [initial] reclassification of this drought as a national disaster designated the primary responsibility for the coordination and management of the disaster to the national executive, who must act in close cooperation with the other spheres of government to deal with the disaster and its consequences. Today, we are announcing the declaration of the drought as a national state of disaster,” he said.

He explained that, if a disaster had been classified but not declared, then the responsible sphere of government – municipal, provincial or national – must deal with the disaster within the parameters of its existing legislation and contingency arrangements.

Should these arrangements not be adequate to deal effectively with the disaster, or there be other special circumstances, then a state of disaster may be declared.

“This declaration must be used by all levels of government to mobilise resources to ensure urgent interventions in order to realise medium-term relief and long-term recovery from the drought conditions,” Mkhize noted.

A ten-action strategy has been activated to ensure heightened drought interventions across the country, including monthly meetings of the National Joint Drought Coordination Committee (NJDCC) and the continued coordination of integrated multisectoral intervention measures; the enhancement of weather forecasting capacity to ensure impact-based early warning services; and the mobilisation of all sectors and their resources to implement integrated, coordinated and relevant sectoral programmes.

It also included the development of an integrated water conservation model through multisectoral engagements under the auspices of the IMTT, as well as a strengthening of its back-to-basics programme and continued implementation of the ‘War on Leaks’ programme, besides others.

“The IMTT will continue to regularly consider reports received from the NJDCC on measures being put in place to improve coordination and deployment of resources for response and recovery from the drought disaster, and to provide political guidance,” Mkhize concluded.